Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Helen's Mysterious Castle shines with charm and class.
Its story is minimal and affecting. It starts with no intro to speak of, dropping you straight into its world, then gradually unfurls. Little characters and moments are far more important than they initially appear. Short conversations endear you to its characters, so much so that you're sad when they're seemingly gone forever, and overjoyed when they return.
These narrative arcs elevate what's already a world-class dungeon-crawler. The level layouts are smart, economical, and dense. The one-on-one battles last under a minute a-piece, and pose extremely clever and engaging tactical challenges. It's a hard game at times, but also very kind -- death in battle poses no penalty except for sending you to the start of the dungeon, where you're given a meal that permanently raises your max HP.
The aesthetic builds on default resources with heaps of excellent custom sprites, animation, and re-orchestrated music. For someone already delighted by the RPGMaker 2000 aesthetic, the effect is intoxicating.
Helen's Mysterious Castle takes exactly the amount of time it needs to fully explore the greater realities of its combat and its characters. Then it ends, without wasting your time. It is a thoughtful and lovely game, and I look forward to revisiting it in the future.